SOAS University of London

Centre of South East Asian Studies

The Materiality of Writing in Premodern Java

Wayan Jarrah Sastrawan (University of Sydney)

Date: 14 October 2020Time: 11:00 AM

Finishes: 14 October 2020Time: 1:00 PM

Venue: Virtual Event

Type of Event: Webinar

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The Materiality of Writing in Premodern Java


My objects of study in this seminar are premodern texts from Java, written between the 9th and 17th centuries. Even as these texts are typically, and in my own research, mined for what they tell us about premodern Javanese history, they are challenging to use as historical sources: though they offer valuable information, they are often fragmentary, incoherent and mutually contradictory. In asking why this is the case, I reorient my methodologies to an investigation of materiality, a key feature of art history and archaeology. By asking questions about the material and physical properties of written sources, we can gain valuable insights into the development of the traditions that produced those sources. My research finds that the materiality of writing has played a major role in the evolution of historical texts. The physical conditions of historical documents, such as their durability, the circumstances of their storage, and their capacity for reproduction, have powerfully influenced the development of Javanese historiography as a whole. By examining these historical objects, we can gain a better understanding of premodern Javanese history in general.

Speaker Biography

Wayan Jarrah Sastrawan is a doctoral student of Asian History at the University of Sydney. His research focuses on the historical writing practices of premodern Southeast Asians, specialising in texts written in Malay, Javanese, and Balinese. He is also interested in the theory of history, the environmental and economic history of Southeast Asia, modern Indonesian history, and Indonesian popular music. He is a founding member of the research group Perspectives on the Past in Southeast Asia and is an editor for New Mandala.


Registration for this event is not required. This event will be streamed publicly on the SOAS Southeast Asian Art Academic Programme Facebook page.

This event is made possible by generous support from SOAS's Southeast Asian Art Academic Programme.

Organiser: SOAS Centre of South East Asian Studies and SOAS Southeast Asian Art Academic Programme

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